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Probe into cholesterol drug widened


Politicians in the US have widened the scope of an inquiry into the cholesterol drug Vytorin (ezetimibe/simvastatin).

They are looking at a delay in releasing study results by manufacturers Merck and Schering-Plough.

The controversial study found the drug was not as effective as advertised, which led to both companies’ shares taking a severe hit and several lawsuits.

The House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce is now demanding a number of documents from the chief executives of both firms, as well as the Food and Drug Administration and the webmaster for a site called Cafepharma.

Anonymous postings by pharmaceutical sales people on the portal suggest some of them knew about the ENHANCE study’s results in March 2007. Partial results were not released until 14 January this year.

“These website entries are obviously troubling and raise further questions as to whether anyone within Merck or Schering-Plough knew the results of the ENHANCE trial prior to the official release of data,” letters to the officials state.

Vytorin is a combination of Schering-Plough’s Zetia (ezetimibe) and Merck’s older cholesterol drug Zocor (simvastatin).

The companies claim the complexity of the study, and problems reading ultrasound scans of arteries, delayed the results. Both have pledged to cooperate with the committee’s inquiry.

Copyright © PA Business 2008

House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce

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